Password-Protect Your Mobile Devices

I found Tuesday morning a BlackBerry on the ground while walking to the train station. I picked it up with hopes of returning it to its owner. There was no obvious contact information on the casing or the home screen, though I still had no problem identifying the owner. How? I easily accessed the owner’s AOL email application, which enabled me to identify the email address. From the BlackBerry address book, I easily cross-referenced the person’s name and home address. I wasn’t snooping around for personal information; I was only trying to find a way to quickly contact the owner. I was successful. A girl from the high school in my town dropped it on her way to class, and she was grateful that I contacted her to return it.

One could argue I should have destroyed the device or handed it over to the mobile carrier, thereby preserving the sanctity of private data. Instead I made a judgment call to simply search for the owner’s identity and prompt a speedier return with less hassle for everyone.  While I respected the data and only surfaced contact info for retrieval purposes, there are plenty of thieves and vandals who would have taken advantage of the situation. That’s why, when the owner retrieved the device, I declined her cash reward and insisted she enable password-protection immediately.

If I ever lost a mobile device, I sure would hope that the finder would return it to me. More important, though, I would want to ensure my private data are secure (or at least not entirely vulnerable). Fortunately, BlackBerry and many other smart phones allow you to password-protect your device while still displaying name and contact information on the home screen. That way, if the device is lost, you can have some confidence it will be difficult to access personal data. Conversely, the finder will easily be able to contact you to return it. On my BlackBerry, I have a password and include my home phone number and email address on the home screen.

The mobile data carriers could do a better job of making password-protection and retrieval easier. But for companies addicted to bad nickel-and-dime profits, I suppose such efforts would only reduce the volume of phone replacement orders and consequent revenues.

(Photo credit: Mirko Macari)

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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